Ice Hockey: Capitals take Giant step towards play-off berth

Capitals' Rene Jarolin, second right, scored Capitals' second goal against Belfast.

Capitals' Rene Jarolin, second right, scored Capitals' second goal against Belfast.

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Play-off chasing Edinburgh Capitals overcame a late fightback from title contenders Belfast Giants at Murrayfield last night to secure a 3-2 victory that left player-coach Richard Hartmann tickled pink.

In what was a great ice hockey match, Edinburgh, playing in one-off pink strips to raise money for Breast Cancer Care, were three goals to the good with less than ten minutes to play, before two quick-fire goals from the visitors threatened to turn the game on its head. However, Caps dug deep for their first win over the big-budget Northern Irish outfit in three years.

Hartmann, who shouted instructions from the bench after injuring his shoulder early in the first period, said: “I’m delighted with the performance. We beat one of the best teams in the league and I’m really proud of the boys.

“I wasn’t nervous. I knew the guys were playing well and I trusted them to get the job done. Perhaps some of the younger players got a little anxious towards the end, especially when the game became close.

“I said to the guys, for every goal we concede, Belfast will gain in confidence and come back at us twice as hard, and that’s what happened. We were under real pressure towards the end. I told them to keep skating and keep the puck out at the boards, and that’s what they did.”

These thoughts were echoed by the scorer of Edinburgh’s match-winning third goal, and team captain, Martin Cingel, who said: “Fantastic win, we deserved the points. Obviously they came back at us really hard, but credit to the guys who all stepped up and held firm those last five or six minutes. I’m delighted to score, but it’s a team effort from all our three lines. Every night it’s different guys who are scoring the goals which is terrific for the club.”

The result keeps Edinburgh in sixth place, and on course for an end-of-season play-off spot, but would appear to have scuttled Belfast’s hopes of regaining the league title they won last season. Giants, bossed by former Capitals player-coach Doug Christiansen, are now six points behind leaders Nottingham Panthers with only four games remaining.

Cingel believed Edinburgh could show no sympathy to their former coach and said: “We need to look after ourselves. If we didn’t get anything from this game we could have been out of the play-offs, so right now it’s no mercy.”

Edinburgh took the lead 90 seconds in, a terrific one-timer, despite a bouncing puck, from Brent Patry leaving Giants goalie Stephen Murphy with no chance. Top-scorer Rene Jarolin doubled the lead, grabbing his 30th goal of the season after being fed from behind the net by Curtis Leinweber, on the power-play at 37.57.

When Cingel grabbed the Capitals’ third with only 11 minutes left, cutting in from the right, and rounding Murphy to score one handed, he appeared to have won the game.

However Belfast, who had beaten Edinburgh so convincingly in the season’s three previous encounters, roared back and scored two goals less than a minute apart through Craig Peacock and Andrew Fournier.

With seven-and-a-half minutes remaining, Giants laid siege to the Capitals goal but could not force an equaliser. Capitals net-minder, Tomas Hiadlovsky, made 36 saves to pick up the man-of-the match award.

A bitterly disappointed Christiansen said: “We didn’t bury our chances when we had them and, when you give up a goal as early as we did, you’re going to be on the back foot.

“Give Edinburgh credit, they played well and their goalie played great down the stretch, but we didn’t show up until it was probably too late. We may have had significant success against them when we played earlier in the season, but Edinburgh are a different team now and deserved the two points.”